In the seventh episode of the second season of Deep Space Nine, Quark receives a visit from Grand Nagus Zek and is offered a ridiculous opportunity. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For extended talk of misogyny, queerbaiting.
You know, this episode shows some promise, but it is, unfortunately so, a stinker. It’s kind of boring at times, the Dosi are one of the worst designed species I’ve ever seen on Star Trek, and this tale of Pel’s fight against the vicious misogyny of the Ferengi culture is HORRIFYINGLY UNSATISFYING. I don’t necessarily hold this show to a different stand than the other Star Trek entities, but Deep Space Nine’s writing team has shown a fairly frequent willingness to subvert narratives and address some really intense shit. So it blows my mind that this story made it to the screen without anyone pointing out how badly it fares for Pel.
The whole “dress as a man for acceptance” trope is usually far more common in fantasy, so I was a bit surprised to see it here. But the story was decent! In order to escape the oppressive misogyny of her culture, Pel dressed up as a male Ferengi in order to prove her value as a negotiator. And she’s fantastic here while she is assisting Quark. On top of that, I found it fascinating to see loyalty between Ferengi because it’s so rare. The problem I see with “Rules of Acquisition” is that absolutely nothing is done to change the sort of life Pel will have. Even with his final words, Zek shames Pel for what she’s done instead of trying to understand her. Does Quark help her after he discovers the truth? Not really; he merely gives her some money and sends her on her way after showing her some affection.
That’s not exactly a stunning plan.
I’m torn on the kiss itself, too, because in that moment Star Trek could have truly done something significant for all their gay or queer viewers. To their credit, Jadzia’s reaction to realizing that Pel loved Quark was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in regards to this topic. She’s not confused or grossed out about it; no, she’s merely eager to talk about Pel (who she thinks is a male) loving Quark. Sometimes, that’s the best sign you can get from a person! And I wish more was said on the topic before the episode barrels forward. The same goes of Pel’s kiss, since we could have easily had the episode explore Quark being bisexual or pansexual because… well, why not? Even in terms of “realism,” it just doesn’t make sense that every alien species would be heterosexual or would even have sex or romance as part of their culture. But the potential is washed over. Now, does this count as queerbaiting? My gut says no because there wasn’t a bait and switch here. It’s more of a situational thing, and since Pel was always female, it’s not like we were actually going to see a same-sex relationship in this particular story.
Besides, my disappointment comes more from the fact that the writers thought they could have so much misogyny on display and believe that if they just had Major Kira and Pel comment on it a few times, then that’s all they needed to do. How can Pel ever escape this life if no one else will do anything about it? Will she just have to constantly disguise herself forever? How can she escape her own species in the Gamma Quadrant?
It’s really a let-down because there’s no follow-through. It just ends. What about the Dominion or the Karemma? Is that plot just not resolved at all? Ultimately, this is an uneven story with no real conclusion, and it’s definitely not a favorite of mine.
The video for “Rules of Acquisition” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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